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Document Details :
Title: Asellius Sabinus
Subtitle: Culture, Wit, and Power in the Golden Age of Gastronomy
Author(s): CHAMPLIN, Edward
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 47 Date: 2017
A highly speculative biography of a man about whom we know almost nothing might read as follows. Asellius Sabinus was born sometime in the latter half of the first century BC and he died in the 30s AD. His family was senatorial, they and he flourished under and through the patronage of Augustus and Tiberius, and he moved easily in aristocratic circles. He was wealthy. His culture was that of the intellectual and social elite of his day. His aristocratic wit was considered the height of sophistication by a most knowledgeable critic. He was committed to real oratory, even to the point of teaching it, but indulged as well in the contemporary craze for the imaginary, that is, in competitive declamation. He had a sincere interest in food and its preparation, another passion of the day. And he conveyed that interest in a gastronomic poem replete with epic overtones, a clever parody which both satirized and enshrined that passion. The poem (not a word of which survives) was a serious literary creation with a long pedigree, a work both refined and erudite, and it was handsomely rewarded by another most knowledgeable critic. In person he was charming and urbane, a Noel Coward avant la lettre.